Malema targets mines in new film

2011-06-08 14:39

Influential ANC Youth League president Julius Malema says in a new documentary that South African mines must be nationalised to return mineral wealth that was stolen by white colonists to the black majority.

Malema is one of the best-known politicians in South Africa and his controversial comments may further unnerve investors in the key mining sector and fuel debate on the issue.

The documentary, Mining for Change: A Story of South African Mining, debuted in March and is currently making the rounds at the Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival in Johannesburg and in Cape Town. It runs until June 26.

It previously screened at the PanAfrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou in Ivory Coast.

Among other things, Malema says overseas mining companies simply don’t care about poor mining communities in South Africa.

“They are in London ... they are playing God. The only thing they want to check is an update on bank balance and how the markets look like,” he says.

His comments are peppered throughout the documentary with interviews with other big South African personalities such as former trade unionist-turned-tycoon Cyril Ramaphosa and Nicky Oppenheimer, chairman of diamond giant De Beers.

Oppenheimer says he has “no problem” with the nationalisation debate but thinks the debate has been settled.

That may be wishful thinking and Malema – who has also called for mass land seizures – makes his case in his typically colourful way, explaining why nationalisation should proceed without compensation by comparing South Africa’s mineral wealth to a stolen car.

“We are not going to buy what has been stolen from us. It’s like when a person steals my car and I report it to police.

They (police) find this car ... with new mag wheels and leather seat and you know... it’s now looking very nice,” he says.

“And then I say: but this is my car. And they say: ‘yes, this is your car, but this man (who stole it) has put a lot of investment (in it) – the mag wheels and what, what. You’ll have to pay him back before you get this car’.”

But Malema adds that he would still welcome foreign investment.

“You bring your machines and all the necessary equipment to come and extract the mineral – which I own. That equipment, in their nice English, they call it investment. That’s fine. You come and invest here, in my minerals,” he says.

The film also features interviews with former mine workers and details how the mining industry was interlinked with the white apartheid political system by segregating blacks from whites and creating a vast pool of cheap labour.

The documentary shows old interviews with president Nelson Mandela advocating nationalisation after his release from prison in 1990.

But the ANC dropped the policy under pressure from foreign investors, with Mandela in the early 1990s quoted as saying: “You could cut with a knife” the hostility he encountered to nationalisation at a global conference he had attended.

Nationalisation is not government policy now but there is support for it from sections of the governing ANC.

Current policy calls for 26% of the mining sector to be black-owned by 2014, which would be 20 years after the end of white rule.

The documentary was made last year and is directed by Navan Chetty and TV and radio personality Eric Miyeni.

Miyeni said in a phone interview: “I decided to make the movie because I think right now the biggest challenge South Africa is facing is improving the economic plight of the people, and our greatest resource is mining,”

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